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A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Get to Know Your Grapes: Carmenère

Carmenère is a grape variety native to Bordeaux, France where it is commonly used as a blending agent.  The grape is unofficially known as the sixth grape of Bordeaux (behind Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec).  It takes its name from the French word, carmin (crimson), referring to the foliage during harvest season in the autumn.

Carmenere by Inama from the Veneto

Carmenere by Inama from the Veneto

In small amounts, the grape adds a fruity and lush character to the resulting wines.  Some growers have found it difficult to cultivate as it is prone to rot and mold given average rainfall conditions.

It also grows prominently in parts of northern Italy as well as in Chile, where the drier conditions are more suitable for Carmenère’s ripening process.  In the early 1990s in many of Chile’s main winegrowing areas, enologists discovered that many of the “Merlot” vines were in fact Carmenère grapes, and in 1998 the Chilean Department of Agriculture officially recognized Carmenère as its own variety.  The grape is also cultivated in parts of Washington and California in the United States, Victoria in Australia, and New Zealand.

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère

When used on its own, Carmenère tends to produce full-bodied wines with notes of blueberry, strawberry, and other bright table fruits with a soft, elegant tannin structure.  Carmenère has proven itself a reliable wine and is worth more tasting and analysis in the future.

2 comments to Get to Know Your Grapes: Carmenère

  • Pie

    What kinds of cuisines and dishes is this wine best paired with?

  • winefor1

    It’s a rather versatile wine and can be paired with game dishes like chicken or quail. Most Carmenère wines have a strong tannin profile that can combat the proteins and fats typically found in game dishes. Rarely is it a jammy and dark bodied wine, thus it can play well with tomato sauces and pizzas as well.

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